Monday, August 18, 2014

Bears bear their bear cubs in the winter.

You've probably noticed by now that some words in English take on different meanings depending on context. The word BEAR is a good example. Most students know the animal. There are grizzly bears and brown bears and polar bears, and apparently, on this wallpaper from a local burger joint, dancing bears! :-)

Another common meaning of BEAR is to carry or endure something heavy or difficult. In this context, you usually BEAR a burden or a heavy load, which often refers to a problem. You can also BEAR someone's attacks. For example, politicians often have to BEAR frequent attacks and scrutiny from the public or the media.
  • SCRUTINY - examination
We also use the word BEAR when we talk about someone giving birth, though this usage is a bit formal: She BORE a son when she was in her 20s and a daughter when she was in her 30s. That's right; the past tense of BEAR is BORE.

Yet another meaning of BEAR is to be patient or to tolerate someone or something. When you say you CAN'T BEAR seeing someone cry, you mean you can't take it or stand it. In other words, you want it to stop. Similarly, when someone says BEAR WITH ME, the person is telling you to be patient and keep listening or keep waiting while the person is putting his thoughts or something together.
Words that look and sound the same but have different meanings, such as BEAR, are called homonyms. There are a lot of homonyms in English, and they are definitely good to know, so stay tuned for future posts to learn about them.

To RECAP (summarize) the more common homonyms of BEAR:
  • I had never seen a dancing BEAR until I went to the circus. (the animal)
  • Taking care of a sick parent at such a young age is a huge burden to BEAR. (carry; endure)
  • It was a small mistake, but he had to BEAR intense criticism from his colleagues for over a year. (endure)
  • Once upon a time in a faraway land, a princess was about to BEAR her first child. (have; give birth to) 
  • The whole kingdom was full of excitement and anticipation, except for a jealous old witch who couldn't BEAR hearing and seeing joy in the land. (tolerate)
  • "BEAR WITH ME," the writer told his editor. "I've been so busy lately, but I promise I will finish this story soon." (Be patient)

Well folks, I hope you enjoyed this quick lesson. More importantly, I hope you learned something. Even more importantly, I hope you practice, so you won't forget and will begin to use the different homonyms of the word BEAR easily.

Until next time!
-- Joe Yu, ESL instructor

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